The Turn of The Screw

3-20 October, 2019

A ghost story. Revealed. Turn by turn.

Benjamin Britten’s haunting operatic version of Henry James’s famous novella The Turn of the Screw is a chilling ghost story, saturated with menace. The story follows a young governess, performed by internationally acclaimed Kiwi soprano Anna Leese, as she arrives at a remote country house to care for two children, with only written instructions from an absent guardian who advises that he is not to be contacted. Things only get stranger.

What is real and what are the imagining of a troubled mind? The novel doesn’t make it clear, and Britten and librettist Piper leave it equally ambiguous in the opera. This is a narrative just ambivalent enough for us to project upon it our own fears.

The Turn of the Screw is a 20th century English chamber opera composted by Benjamin Britten with a libretto by Myfanwy Piper. The libretto is based on the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. The opera was commissioned by the Venice Biennale and given its world premiere on 14 September 1954, at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice.

Read the programme


“Britten can be alienating, if you prefer a sweeter, more romantic style of opera, and the story is distressing, with its themes of corruption of innocence and helplessness.  But if you allow yourself to be taken on that journey, you will invest in it, you will feel things, and that’s what good opera should do.” – The Wellingtonista

“NZO’s The Turn Of The Screw by Benjamin Britten at Wellington’s Opera House had a perfect cast, was perfectly performed and sung, and had a unsettling set, galvanic lighting and a ghostly, ghastly, uneasy, psychological drama.
In short – a fabulous, compelling production.” – DMS Review Blog

“The Turn of the Screw is a gripping and unsettling night at the opera in the hands of Thomas de Mallet Burgess.” – William Dart, New Zealand Herald


Creative team

Conductor Holly Mathieson
Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess
Set and Costume Designer Tracy Grant Lord
Lighting Designer Matthew Marshall
Assistant Director Eleanor Bishop



Governess Anna Leese
Prologue/Peter Quint Jared Holt
Miss Jessel Madeleine Pierard
Mrs Grose Patricia Wright
Flora Oliva Forbes/Alexa Harwood
Miles Lukas Maher/Alexander Swallow



Accompanied by Orchestra Wellington and Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

A New Zealand Opera production

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